Midlife Mission, Not Midlife Crisis: a book review

I have a confession to make. I’m forty. I aged out in June and I am forced to face the fact that I’m statistically closer to the grave than the cradle. In many ways I don’t feel forty yet. I feel like I’m still becoming who I was meant to be. I don’t feel like I’m established. There is so much I had hoped to accomplish at this point,  there is security which has eluded me, such as a fulfilling job and  life success.

4434Authors Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty both have successful ministry careers.  Greer is the president and CEO of Hope International, a global micro-finance organization. Lafferty is the senior pastor of Willowdale Chapel in Jennersville, Pennsylvania.  Greer watched Lafferty navigate his forties and decided to learn from him about how he could avoid a midlife crisis and be propelled towards meaningful mission (17). 40/40 Vision: Clarifying Your Mission in Midlife is Greer and Lafferty’s call for us to reevaluate our lives and press into the things which matter.

Lafferty and Greer share vulnerability about their experience of aging. They also engage a third dialogue partner: Qoheleth. The author of Ecclesiastes provides insights on refocusing our life midstream.  Greer and Lafferty (and Qoheleth) address midlife (ch. 1), the meaninglessness of life (ch. 2), disappointment with our life not going how we had planned (ch.3), the lose of  ‘thrill'(ch. 4), facing mortality (ch. 5), growing in generosity (ch. 6), breaking the addiction to go-go-go (ch. 7), aging well (ch. 8),  deepening our relationships in midlife (ch. 9), relinquishing control (ch. 10), finding meaning outside of ‘a job’ (ch. 11), and living a life with lasting purpose (ch. 12).

In their introduction, Greer and Lafferty write, ” Our hope is that this is not just another self-help book loosely based on Christian principles or a list of ways to ease the symptoms of midlife. Rather, we want to address the underlying questions of midlife through the timeless wisdom fo Ecclesiastes. Although many issues in their forties, others face them in their thirties or fifities” (17-18). Sharing vulnerably from their life experience, they delve into each theme, highlighting the wisdom and insights of Ecclesiaties and exploring what it means to live life on mission in life’s latter half.

This book speaks meaningfully to me in a way I wish it did not. I would rather be young, invincible, and immortal. But the experience of forty means I have to face up to life and press forward knowing that reckoning and resurrection await those who fear God  and keep his commandments (183-184).  Greer and Lafferty’s conversational tone draws you and causes you to reflect on what life could be like moving forward.

I recommend this book for those near forty, those who are forty or fortyish, and those who saw forty a long time ago and still pretend they are forty. Greer and Lafferty show how Ecclesiastes speaks to midlife. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for my honest review.


The Cats in the Cradle: a book review

My parents are both nearing retirement. Now that I am pushing forty, that isn’t as old as it used to be (It was really old whne I was in my twenties). My mom and dad are still active and I suspect they have many good years ahead. Yet they are aging. My father who hands were always strong now hands me the pickle jar to open for him. My mother is on her own entropic journey. Yet

Aging is a reality and the day will come when I will have to take a more active role in caring for my parents. As a pastor, I walk alongside others, both aging parents and their caretakers. So I was interested to read Nancy Parker Brummett’s Take My Hand Again: A Faith-Based Guide For Helping Aging Parents. Brummett walks through issues that adult children face as they care for their parents at the end of life. This includes helping them get their paperwork in order, making decisions about living and care, whether parents should keep driving, and helping them leave a godly legacy.

This is billed as a ‘faith-based’ approach to helping aging parents and is published by Kregel, an evangelical, Christian publisher. For the most part, it isn’t particularly ‘faith-based’ so much as practical and helpful. All the chapters have a Bible verse epigraph and maybe a verse or two is quoted in the text, but the advice that Brummett doles out is helpful for Christians or non-Christians alike. The exception would be the last couple of chapters that speak more directly to the idea of spiritual legacy and eternity. I think the broad appeal to this book is actually good. Most of the issues around issues aren’t Christian, or secular. They are human. God cares about our mundane, ordinary concerns and I appreciated the practical way Brummett addressed the real needs of aging parents. If you are looking for a book about the spirituality of aging, that is a different book.

As I said, my parents are aging but not agéd. They are also well prepared. They’ve prepared a living will, chosen someone to manage their finances when they are gone, and have seen to some of those practical details. Still I liked Brummett’s practicality and think this is a useful book as parents age. I give it four stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.